Whether you’re trying to shed those last pesky pounds or have a bit more to lose, we’ll give you the skinny on how you can really lose the weight this time… and keep it off. You might be surprised what’s holding you back.
Diet: A Four-Letter Word
Instead of calling it a diet, why not consider this a lifestyle change to reimagine a slimmer you. Let’s take the focus off the scale and put the spotlight on how you feel inside and out. When you’re living healthier, your clothes will fit better, your posture will improve and you will look and feel slimmer. This is a mindset that allows for cheats and treats and doesn’t eliminate entire food groups like some fad diets, because honestly, most diets just aren’t sustainable.
Perfecting Your Pantry
Just like a divine recipe takes gourmet ingredients, a lifelong commitment to a healthy weight also requires a good mix of quality food. One trick is to shop the perimeter of your grocery store, concentrating your purchases in the fresh produce, fresh meat and dairy aisles and limiting your choices in the more processed canned and packaged food aisles. Fresh foods like fruits and vegetables and lean meats not only fuel your body for day-long energy, they also boast youth-restoring antioxidants. Did you realize that canned vegetables often have added sodium? Fresh, or even frozen at the peak of ripeness, without the additives is so much healthier. Dairy gets a bad reputation, but it is actually good for weight loss and so important for your bones, especially after menopause. Low-fat yogurt with a little bit of fresh, antioxidant-rich berries can really feel like a treat. Sprinkle a little granola on top for some extra crunch! Apples have been shown to reduce your appetite and keep you feeling full, while the fiber helps your body release fat. Why not try one before a meal?
Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like wild-caught salmon, walnuts and pasture-raised eggs can boost metabolism to burn more fat and increase blood flow to your muscles which increases the benefits of your exercise. As if that weren’t enough, Omega-3s also hydrate your skin which, in turn, helps minimize wrinkles. Try exchanging butter for olive oil. There are some tasty, flavored varieties that add so much interest to meats, vegetables and pastas. And don’t waste calories on frozen, cardboard-tasting, “slim-quick” meals. They’ll just leave you hungry in a couple of hours and your choices might not be as good when you’re looking for a quick snack.
Soda and highly-processed chips and candies offer zero nutritional benefits and empty calories which only translate into extra pounds. That doesn’t mean you need to completely deprive yourself, though. Just make smarter choices. Read the labels. Typically the fewer ingredients listed (and the more ingredients you actually recognize as food and not additives), the better. High fructose corn syrup is a known healthy-eating no-no. This so-called natural ingredient acts anything but natural in our bodies, blocking the hormonal signal that tells your body to stop eating. You’d be surprised where this “natural” ingredient is lurking. Just check your labels. Swap processed, white bread and pasta for fiber-rich whole grain varieties. The key here is “whole” grain or wheat. If it doesn’t say “whole” wheat, then it’s processed. Studies say people who eat whole grains regularly have a lower risk of obesity and lower cholesterol levels.
So how can you still indulge without packing on the pounds? Swap greasy chips for lower-cal pretzels, a handful of almonds or fresh-popped popcorn, minus the butter. To satisfy your sweet tooth, try a few squares of heart-healthy dark chocolate. Even better, have a few dark chocolate-covered almonds. Another great sweet treat, why not enjoy a tasty, whole grain oatmeal and raisin cookie? Rich in fiber, both oatmeal and raisins help you feel full longer and give you long-lasting energy. Just be sure to choose a less-processed variety. Replace your high-calorie, high fructose corn syrup-laden soda with fresh-brewed iced tea. A little bit of honey makes tea all the sweeter. Or try a flavored water, even a carbonated variety if you crave the fizziness of soda, but try to choose one without any artificial sweeteners. Believe it or not, even the zero-calorie diet sodas can pack on the pounds because that artificial sweetener plays a little trick on the brain, making you think you’re actually hungry. Just dropping one regular soda a day can equal a whopping 16 lb weight loss in one year!
Just Add Water
Sipping water throughout the day can keep hunger at bay. Water is good for every part of your body, including your skin. It doesn’t have to be high-priced bottled water. Tap water is just as good and even contains smile-friendly flouride. Grab an insulated, reusable water bottle, fill it with ice and enjoy. A cold, refreshing glass of water before a meal can keep you from overindulging. And it’s always important to stay hydrated while you exercise.
When to Say When
We’ve all heard that five small meals a day is better for your body, but why? When you go too long in between meals, your body goes into survival mode, which means you start to store fat. Eating five smaller meals keeps your blood sugar constant, controls your hunger better and keeps your energy soaring all day long. Be sure each mini-meal contains a lean or low-fat protein, a little whole grain fiber, fruits or veggies and a small amount of healthy fat like olive oil, nuts or fatty fish.
Chew on This
Something as simple as how quickly you eat can really make a big impact in your healthy living goals. It’s really not a race. When you take a moment to chew more slowly, you can really savor your food. Rest your fork in between bites. When you eat more slowly, not only does it help your digestion, but it also gives your brain a chance to catch up with your stomach so you can fully notice those tummy cues telling you you’re full. The clean plate club is a thing of the past. You can always save your leftovers for next-day’s lunch or for a little snack.
Shake up Your Routine
Exercise is key not only for weight loss, but for better living. Even a little exercise can leave you feeling more energized and your body feeling more relaxed. The important thing is to choose something you like and stick with it. But to really see the best results, it’s also important to vary your routine. Just like your mind can get bored watching the same thing over and over again, doing the same routine day after day can make your body become complacent, making it harder to shed those last few pounds. Shake things up and take a new route on your walk. Alternate your walks with yoga and lengthen and strengthen, tighten and tone your muscles. Grab a friend and try an exercise dance class together. Add a little muscle to your routine with hand or ankle weights. Take them on your walk or do a simple circuit while you watch your favorite show.
Sleep on It
Believe it or not, not getting your ZZZ’s can lead to weight gain. Your body creates a delicate balance of hormones that signal when you’re hungry and when you’re not. When you get a good night’s sleep, your body keeps the “I’m hungry” hormones in check by producing more of the “I’m full” hormones. Sleep-deprived bodies crave fuel to keep going, which is why when we’re tired, we might reach for less than healthy, high-carb options with lots of waist-expanding calories and little nutrition. To fall into a deeper sleep, avoid caffeine from late afternoon on. Your dreams of better sleep and a slimmer you will be better realized when you’ve bypassed the caffeine buzz.
Enlist a Friend
Having a cheerleader and weight-conscious buddy (or even your hubby) make the healthy lifestyle switch with you can boost the success rate for both of you. It’s much easier to be motivated to exercise and eat smart when you’re not the only one doing it.